I forgot to grab a program, which will make this review a lot more vague than it deserves. So to put the credit where it is truly due, go see Spitfire Grill at the Empress Theatre sometime before February 11th. I really don't think you'll be sorry.
Ask anyone who's ever sat next to me in a theatrical production, and they'll tell you that I kind of love to hate. I can truly enjoy a show and still come away with a few things to complain about. For example, I've not yet seen a production of The Scarlet Pimpernel in which I was 100% satisfied with the Chauvelin, and I've seen some incredible productions. I'm a snob. An elitist. Can you really fault me for wanting perfection?
Of course, I found some stuff to complain about. But I always tell my students/ward choir members/casts that they can tell when I think they're really good, because I'll start to pick at the little stuff. And that's what this is: little stuff.
This show had live music, and it really influenced the mood. The live music consisted of an excellent fiddle and a pretty good piano. The pianist was excellent, really, on the ballads. But on the more involved songs, I heard several botched chords, delays for page turns, and some oversimplification of the meat of the songs. She did what every good accompanist should do and skipped the stuff she thought she'd miss. But for me, it really thinned out what should have been full and driving chords. There were also rhythmic motifs she just didn't quite master. Only the crazy hard ones, but still -- there was room for improvement.
The Green Lights
A major lyrical theme of the show is the "colors of paradise." I'd not have picked a limey-green to represent said colors. I wanted some gorgeous reds and oranges, especially since the show concludes in October.
The Acting/Singing Balance
I'm not really complaining here, because - coming from my music background - I'd rather see weakness in the acting than the singing. But in giving a fair and complete review, the actress playing Hannah occasionally had trouble delivering her lines with fluidity, and there was a disconnect for me between the power of Caleb's singing voice compared to the way he delivered his spoken lines.
That's it. That's all I can complain about. And I'm trying really hard.
Now on to the awesome stuff.
This music is not easy. In fact, there's some points at which it's pretty freaking hard. I swear I didn't hear one single out-of-tune chord. Not one botched counterpoint rhythm. Not one balance issue. A.ma.zing.
I got chills no fewer than four times. I didn't cry, but my friend did, and I heard plenty of sniffles throughout. There were many poignant scenes, and each character told his or her story so well.
Its really hard to keep up momentum and energy in a show with no production numbers and no ensemble cast to essentially come off the bench. Six people. Two acts. Tons of solos. And my mind - my leaves water boiling on the stove at least once per week mind - wandered only once. (Sorry, the song when Eli comes back just didn't do it for me.) The show built in all the right places and never (well, almost never) dropped too far.
The director used the whole weird Empress stage to his advantage, and I felt every corner and platform was used expertly. The painting was beautiful, and the actual grill was perfect. The props were used to make the grill seem fully functional and real. I wanted to go sit down and order some dinner.
Honestly, people. Go see it. (And then feel free to let me know if I led you astray.)
2 months ago